Verse > Anthologies > Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans. > A Harvest of German Verse
Margarete Münsterberg, ed., trans.  A Harvest of German Verse.  1916.
The Alderking
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
WHO rides through the night and the storm, so wild?
It is the father who carries his child;
He holds the boy secure in his arm,
He keeps him warm and safe from harm.
“Why, son, art thou hiding thy face in fear?”        5
“Seest thou not, father, the Alderking near?
The Alderking with his crown and train?”—
“My son, it is mist before the rain.”
“Thou dearest child, oh, come with me!
Such lovely games I’ll play with thee.        10
My flowers gay thou shalt behold;
My mother has many a gown of gold.”
“My father, my father, and canst thou not hear
What Alderking whispers into my ear?”—
“Be calm, be calm, my dearest child!        15
The wind in the leaves is murmuring wild.”
“Wilt thou come with me, oh handsome lad?
My daughters shall serve thee and make thee glad;
My daughters their nightly dances keep—
They will rock and dance and sing thee to sleep.”        20
“My father, my father, and canst thou not mark
Alderking’s daughters there in the dark?”—
“My son, my son, it is clear as day:
The ancient willows appear so gray.”
“I love thee, thy beauty has charmed my eye;        25
If thou art not willing, with force I will try.”—
“My father, my father, now he clutches my arm!
The Alderking has done me harm!”
The father shudders, his riding is wild,
He holds in his arms the moaning child,        30
He barely reaches his own homestead;
And in his arms the child was dead.

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